Thursday, September 07, 2006

MJ: Victim or victory?

Despite whatever you learned in history class, democracy is is a flawed political system. The fathers of free speech -- Locke, Pulitzer, Cato -- helped frame the philosophical framework for journalism that, while solid, was not perfect. Journalism gets a lot of things right, and prevents a lot of grimey people from doing a lot of secret, grimey things. But perfect it ain't.

That's why if the local priest gets brought in for questioning based on suspicion that he raped a little boy -- innocent or not -- the story that the police brought him in runs the next day on A1. The story that he was actually cleared by police? That one will be lucky to make the briefs in Metro. Such is the nature of the beast.

Her name has already been dragged through the mud, but Marion Jones's B sample came back negative today. True to form, the news clearing her of any wrongdoing -- and a minimun two-year ban -- sat buried the bottom of the sports webpage.

Do we have a responsibility as journalists and readers of journalism to restore public figures like MJ when they get cleared of wrongdoing?

Posted by Darren Sands at 12:14 AM | link

Read or Post a Comment

It's not our job to restore anyone, as we're not in the position to convict or acquit anyone in the public eye -- we just give the facts. The question lies in the follow-up: when and how do we follow up? Does the follow demand the same attention as the original story?

We'd like the quick and clean to be yes, but of course, there are so many other factors that go into determining the newsworthiness of any item. I'm interested in hearing the opinions of the veterans.

(...'cause, all said, I really don't have an answer to the original question.)

Posted by Blogger Duck @ 12:57 AM, September 07, 2006 #

Truth is, no matter how hard we tried, we could never restore the reputation of public figures once we have crucified them.

Even though the sample remains negative, this incident will always be a tagline, a clause, in most articles about MJ.

As far as the way it was played, my thoughts are thus: if it warranted front page coverage when it was discovered, it warrants front page coverage if it is proven wrong. Period. You mentioned The Times Web site; the paper version had a brief item on the bottom of A1, with a longer story inside.

Will that A1 story erase this incident from MJ's record? I can almost guarantee it won't. That's the scary part about our profession: we literally have the power to make and break careers and people. We have to use that power responsibly.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 5:30 PM, September 07, 2006 #

Sorry, that post above was me. T-Dot.

Posted by Blogger T Dot @ 5:32 PM, September 07, 2006 #

Why do issues like this make the front page and then by the time information comes out to clear names, people have either forgotten how "enraged" they initialy were or the damage is so far done that a "retraction" of sorts is ineffectual.

Posted by Blogger Aaron Morrison @ 7:41 PM, September 07, 2006 #

How about this for a question: Why are we in the media so quick to crucify regular people and then dump them but act like little bitches when it comes to asking hard questions of our elected leaders whom we should be holding accountable? Excuse my vitrol, I'm still pissed at the way the whole WMD thing was handled.

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ 2:30 PM, September 08, 2006 #

"Do we have a responsibility as journalists and readers of journalism to restore public figures like MJ when they get cleared of wrongdoing?"

I agree with all of the above.

I agree with V that the press does not have the responsibility to restore or redeem anyone. The press has the responsibility to report on the facts whether one stands accussed or is found guilty of wrongdoing. The political maneuvering which is made necessary by media coverage, well any and all damage control should be handled by the person's PR person.

I agree with T that if the accusation warranted heavy attention so too should the resolution. Most everyday people I talk to have a growing bone to pick with press people and that is an assumed negeligence which ends up being a direct assault on the press's credibility "persistent short sidedness and little depth", we pick up something run with it, and drop it like that.

The last commenter made a crucial point. The level of scrutiny given to athletes, and entertainers should be equally applied to businessmen and women, politicians, and those whose responsibility it is to serve the best interests of the public.

Posted by Anonymous CNEL @ 4:52 PM, September 09, 2006 #

once a cheater, always a cheater.

Posted by Blogger Vandy @ 12:53 AM, September 14, 2006 #
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